Adventurer will share tale of survival in Granby on Tuesday
February 22, 2009
After six days pinned under a boulder, all 27-year-old Aron Ralston could think was his time on earth might be over.
A courageous, life-saving action led to his rescue and the experience inspired him to share it through public speaking opportunities, including one in Grand County.
Ralston says he appreciated being given a second chance at life and it is “a blessing” to be able to implement the lessons he learned. And, he said, he doubts he will ever have a more powerful experience.
While climbing in the remote Blue John Canyon, near Moab, Utah, an 800-pound boulder came loose, fell and crushed his right forearm, pinning it against the remote canyon wall. Dehydrated and desperate, the mountaineer had exhausted all options. Nobody knew where he was and sustenance was scarce. Using a video camera he recorded goodbyes and said it gave him a source of strength to think of his family and friends.
His extraordinary account of survival in the face of adversity is also the subject of his book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place (2004).” Proceeds from sales, as well as donations Tuesday evening, go toward raising awareness about wilderness issues in southeast Utah.
The book tells of his trek to Canyonlands National Park in Utah in May 2003, and the subsequent actions that led him to, as a last-ditch effort for his life, sever his lower right arm. Already having pondered performing a self amputation of his arm during those harrowing days, Ralston decided it was the one thing that might save him.
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His dull pocket knife ” a free gift his mom received when she bought a flashlight ” wouldn’t do the trick alone. Unable to use it to saw through bone, Ralston drew from his knowledge of mechanical engineering and used torque to break his right radius and ulna bones. (A former mechanical engineer with Intel, he left Albuquerque, N.M., for Aspen on a mission to climb all of Colorado’s “Fourteeners.”)
After severing his arm and rappelling down the 65-foot cliff, he began the 8-mile trek to his vehicle. En route he came across a family from the Netherlands who gave him what food and water they had. Ralston said it was “really a miracle” a helicopter search team found his truck that day (he hadn’t told anyone where he’d be).
He was rushed to three separate hospitals and underwent five surgeries. With a prosthetic arm and attachments, Ralston still climbs. In 2005 he became the first person to solo climb (in the winter) the more than 50 named and ranked mountains in Colorado higher than 14,000 feet. Most recently he climbed the Ojos del Salado and Monte Pissis peaks in Argentina, the second and third highest in the western hemisphere.
A raft trip 225 miles down the Grand Canyon is planned in just six weeks, and he is also hoping to climb Mount Everest with polar explorer Eric Larsen to raise awareness about the Save the Poles project.